Africa smolders while Syria burns out

Middle-East fixation is causing Africa neglect. Photo: AP Photo

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2013  As the World has its collective gaze focused squarely on the Middle East and the 30 plus month old Syrian Civil War, conflicts in Northern and Central Africa go relatively unnoticed just outside of the limelight. With over a dozen ongoing and active civil wars, Africa is not sitting quietly, although there are many groups who would like international attention to stay on Syria and the crisis in the Middle East.

While radical Islamists have infiltrated and taken control of the Syrian revolution, causing many to believe that there is no good or bad guys left on the battle field, they have effectively distracted the entire World from their operations in Africa. Using just one civil war in the Middle East, they have effectively threatened to destabilize the region, cause a rise in oil and natural gas prices, brought every major power in the World besides China into a potential conflict, and they have done all of this with relatively minimum effort.

SEE RELATED: Obama arms Syrian rebels while attacking American gun ownership

Basically, they have dangled a shiny object with their left hand to distract the World, while with their right hand they work to destabilize Africa and take actual, tangible territory. They have pulled a Die Hard mixed with an Oceans 11, and we still don’t realize it yet because we are currently getting heisted.

Africa is home to over a dozen ongoing wars, tribal conflicts, military coups, guerrilla insurgencies, and extremely corrupt politicians. It is made worse by the fact that the entire continent is like Wal-Mart for natural resources, they have it all. There is oil and natural gas, diamonds, gold, minerals used for technology called “conflict minerals”, coal, copper…everything. If it’s valuable and comes from the ground, chances are Africa has what you need.

Africa also has an estimated 500,000,000 small arms floating around the continent. That is enough to arm half of the population of the entire continent, over seven times the number of firearms in the United States.

All of these natural resources and availability of firearms make the influx of radical Islamic fighters all the more dangerous. Young Muslim men who are sent to fight in the hills of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Somalia, Palestine, Libya, Lebanon, now Syria, and anywhere there is a radical Islamic cause, have been turned into hardened fighters and veterans by years of warfare. Radical Islam has a scattered, but vast, army capable of descending on nations or regions if the call comes to do so.

SEE RELATED: 12 years after 9/11, Obama sends guns to al-Qaeda

But what makes Africa different from the Middle East?

If you look at the major countries in the Middle East; Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt, they are all backed by one major World faction or another. The West backs Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. Russia and China back Syria and Iran. As a nuclear power, Pakistan is its own side, though it is supported financially by the United States.

These alliances make it difficult for al-Qaeda to achieve full victory over a legitimate government.

Africa represents a new playground for not only al-Qaeda, but the World. Africa already had its colonial period: Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium already did their job in the latter half of the 19th century by carving up an entire continent into arbitrary lines without regard to tribal self-determination or native input. They applied that formula to their division of the Middle-East to disastrous consequences.

SEE RELATED: Obama’s Syria speech stirs Iraq deja vu

With few exceptions, African nations do not have World super powers hovering over them waiting to squash any signs of trouble. Radical Islamic groups see that and they are taking advantage of it.

Iin the last year, al-Qaeda aligned groups hijacked a civil war in Mali and attempted to stake their claim on territory in the northern third of that very large African nation. Their attempts were only thwarted, or halted, when France sent troops to compbat the Islamist rebels. France took the action after reports that al-Qaeda linked forces were using construction equipment to build towns and fortifications in northern Mali to carve out their own territory. It was the thought of a radical Islamist controlled region, and potentially Islamist controlled country, that spurred France to act.

Right now the World is so focused on the Middle East, that they have neglected the rising tide of Islamic radicals in Africa. Al-Qaeda on the Islamic Maghreb shares much of the same ideology with al-Qaeda with the expressed intent of taking control of Algeria and establishing a religious oligarchy under Sharia law. Al-Qaeda on the Islamic Maghreb, or GCSP, has major operations in several African nations and ties to other radical Islamic groups such as al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram. These groups operate somewhat jointly, receiving funding from nations such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Working together, they pose a credible and substantial threat to the security and stability of North and Central Africa.

Aside from Somalia which acts as a base for pirate attacks on international shipping lanes, the West has seen no reason thus far to intervene in the affairs of the Dark Continent. This is perhaps due to the fact that with the exception of Libya, African Islamic groups or nations have not perpetrated major attacks on the United States and her allies. Western businesses buy natural resources from whatever regime is in power at the time, making the business of being in power in Africa a brutal affair. Rebel groups vie for control of mineral and oil fields, while the West keeps buying as long as the price is right.

So far, terrorist and radical Islamist groups such as the GCSP have kept a low profile and have not attracted the attention of anyone other than France, which is still not saying a lot. Whether they lack the ability to carry out attacks on the West, or they are smart enough to stay off of the Western ant-Radical radar, the GCSP and their allies have failed to garner significant public attention, which is to their extreme advantage.

If international attention is not shifted to the Maghreb and sub-Maghreb nations, in a matter of five to ten years the World will wake up to the realization that they did nothing to stop the entirety of North and West Africa from falling into the hands of radical Islam. If the West is truly concerned with the killing of women and children, and stopping tyrannical dictators and warlords from slaughtering their own people, perhaps they should practice what they preach and look to Africa.

Soon, if left unchecked, North African nations will fall one by one to radical Islam, allowing for the resurgence of the Islamic Caliphate on the Maghreb. 


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Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a B.A. from Catholic University in DC in American History, with a concentration on guerrilla warfare on American soil. He has an M.A. in US History from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, with a concentration on Cold War insurgency. He believes that all news and all information should be taken with a grain of salt, and implores people everywhere to seek news stories everywhere. 

Higgins is also a fervent believer in the traditional role of media, in terms of acting as a balanced check on government policies and individuals regardless of party affiliation. But in the end, he believes that no matter how heated an issue is, there is nothing that can't be discussed over a smoke and some whiskey. 

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